The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

“So a lady was raped. Big deal.”

I’ve started a clippings file of stories like this, the kind that make me ask myself what kind of world we’re living in, for a writing project I’m just starting to work on. I’ve written about the mob who killed a man in Texas, and the people in Minnesota who stepped over a dying woman to make their convenience store purchases. This next story falls in to the same category. But not because of what happened to the victims.

Mother and son huddled together, battered and beaten, in the bathroom — sobbing, wondering why no one came to help. Surely the neighbors had heard their screams. The walls are thin, the screen doors flimsy in this violence-plagued housing project on the edge of downtown.

For three hours, the pair say, they endured sheer terror as the 35-year-old Haitian immigrant was raped and sodomized by up to 10 masked teenagers and her 12-year-old son was beaten in another room.

Then, mother and son were reunited to endure the unspeakable: At gunpoint, the woman was forced to perform oral sex on the boy, she later told a TV station.

Afterward, they were doused with household cleansers, perhaps in a haphazard attempt to scrub the crime scene, or maybe simply to torture the victims even more. The solutions burned the boy’s eyes.

The thugs then fled, taking with them a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of cash, jewelry and cell phones.

In the interview with WPTV, the mother described how she and her son sobbed in the bathroom, too shocked to move. Then, in the dark of night, they walked a mile to the hospital because they had no phone to call for help.

It’s not even that no one came to help them, or even bothered to call for any kind of help. It’s this response:

“So a lady was raped. Big deal,” resident Paticiea Matlock said with disgust. “There’s too much other crime happening here.”

The article goes on to talk about the grinding poverty of the residents in the housing project where this happened, and I think that the bigger picture behind that plays a significant role in the “big deal” response to this particular crime. If you pull back to the 10,000 foot view, what does this say about us?

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4 Comments

  1. That’s so shocking and sad I can’t even quite digest it. That … just … it’s astonishing.

  2. I agree with Katharine. It’s just too much to easily digest. I haven’t heard of brutality like that in years.

    Matlock is a real gem. Her callous remark borders on evil. I hope for her sake she’s mentally ill. I would hate to think any sane person could have so little empathy.

  3. more of the same…..
    In September 2006, a group of African American high
    school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school
    for permission to sit beneath a “whites only” shade
    tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn’t
    sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn’t care
    where students sat. The next day, students arrived at
    school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging
    from the tree.

    The boys who hung the nooses were suspended from
    school for a few days. The school administration
    chalked it up as a harmless prank, but Jena’s black
    population didn’t take it so lightly. Fights and
    unrest started breaking out at school. The District
    Attorney, Reed Walters, was called in to directly
    address black students at the school and told them all
    he could “end their life with a stroke of the pen.”

    Black students were assaulted at white parties. A
    white man drew a loaded rifle on three black teens at
    a local convenience store. (They wrestled it from him
    and ran away.) Someone tried to burn down the school,
    and on December 4th, a fight broke out that led to six
    black students being charged with attempted murder. To
    his word, the D.A. pushed for maximum charges, which
    carry sentences of eighty years. Four of the six are
    being tried as adults (ages 17 & 18) and two are
    juveniles.

    Yesterday, I was in Jena for the first day of the
    trial for Mychal Bell, one of the Jena Six. The D.A.,
    perhaps in response to public pressure, tried to get
    Bell to cop a plea. Bell refused, and today, jury
    selection began. After today, we’ll know whether or
    not the case will be tried in front of an all-white
    jury. Jena’s 85-percent white, and it remains to be
    seen whether or not the six can get a fair trial.

    Both off-the-record and on, Jena residents told me
    racism is alive and well in Louisiana, and this is a
    case where it rose above the levee, so to speak.

    In the next few days, I’ll be posting a few photos
    from Jena that are related to the case, as well as
    linking to a multimedia piece I’m working on. CNN
    began reporting on the story today, following the lead
    of the BBC, who crafted an excellent hour-long
    documentary that can be found on P2P networks.

    Update: Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to face
    trial, was found guilty of aggravated second-degree
    battery and conspiracy to commit the same on June
    28th. A comprehensive look at the case, the trial and
    the verdict was published on July 2nd at
    friendsofjustice. Plus, Democracy Now did a full story.

  4. profoundly distressing

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